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Professional Tips for Organizing Your Clothes Closet

Transitioning out of summer means swapping flip-flops for boots, making room for winter coats and trading swim stuff for snow gear. And that’s why it’s the perfect time to clean out and reorganize those closets you’ve been meaning to conquer. Tackle the task with tips from professional organizers skilled in the art of making sense of your space and your stuff.


Ginny Snook Scott, custom storage expert and chief design officer for California Closets, says the first step is to take everything out of the closet and make four piles: the Now Pile, for things used or worn often; the Someday Pile, for clothes you might fit into again or might use if an occasion arises; the Never Pile, for things you absolutely never reach for; and the Seasonal Pile, for things used seasonally. Be honest and remember your goal: a clean, well-organized, easy-to-use closet.


Geralin Thomas, professional organizer and owner of Metropolitan Organizing in Raleigh, North Carolina, advises donating all the garments that no longer fit you and the clothes you don’t wear but hang on to because you paid a fortune for them. “That money is long gone and hanging on to the garment is not going to magically replace the money you’ve already spent,” Thomas says. (Check to make sure the organization is accepting donations right now.) Another option is to sell them on an online marketplace.

The next step is a tough one. Snook Scott suggests taking a deep cleansing breath and then moving everything from the Someday Pile into the Never Pile. “It’s bold but necessary,” she says. “Needing to pick through clothes you can’t use is a daily drain. Your mind catalogs everything it sees. Working past all of the garments cluttering your closet every day takes its toll over time. This is the hardest step. But you can do it.”

Sort Again

For most people, Snook Scott says, the Never Pile is often much bigger than they expected. “It’s normal for the Never Pile to amount to 40% or more of the items in your closets,” she says. “That means that 40% of your closet space and valuable time is wasted.”

At this point, she says, the purge is not quite finished. She believes that once we see how much space we can free up by eliminating unwanted, unnecessary and unused stuff, we’re motivated to go further. It’s time to look for “never” and “someday” items hiding in the Now Pile.

Think Fast

Acting quickly, while motivation and resolve remain strong, place everything from the Never Pile in large trash bags for donation, resale or sharing. Be strong. “Don’t take this as an opportunity to revisit your choices,” Snook Scott says. Keep moving forward and trust your first instincts. Next, get the bags out of your way by temporarily relocating them to the garage, guest room, basement or attic.

Seasonal Strategies

Pack up seasonal stuff in clear plastic bins with big, easy-to-read labels that let you know what’s inside. Store them out of sight in an easily accessible place.

When storing seasonal clothes, Thomas says, “wash and dry-clean out-of-season clothes before you put them in storage, because antiperspirant, cologne and makeup residue attracts insects.”

Thomas also advises making sure items are dry before you store them. “Dampness will lead to mildew and a musty smell,” she says. “Never store clothes in plastic bags like those from dry cleaners. Store them in cotton zip-up bags. No mothballs. No exceptions.”

Home Stretch

“Dust or vacuum before you put anything back in the closet,” Thomas says. “Dust mites destroy fabric, and they are horrible for people with allergies.”

After the closet is empty and clean, you’re heading for the home stretch. Don’t repeat old mistakes. No wire hangers. Make it a habit to return wire hangers to the dry cleaner for recycling. “Wooden, plastic, padded or flocked hangers are best for maintaining the shape of a garment,” Thomas says. “Make sure you shop for hangers with a nice, elongated hook and contoured shoulders. The longer hooks will help keep your collars in shape. The contoured shoulders mirror human shoulders and will help keep the garment in shape.” Keep in mind, too, that slim hangers create more space on the rod.

Choose clip or clamp-style hangers with felt or foam cushioning to hold skirts and pants in plush fabrics such as corduroy, velour or velvet. Tube style, open-ended hangers are a great choice for pants.

Group Think

When it comes to determining what goes where, Thomas recommends grouping “like” things together for ease and simplicity. “Long-sleeved shirts, short-sleeved shirts and sleeveless shirts all belong in the shirt section,” she says. Bottoms such as skirts and pants also get their own section. “Grouping like things together is known as organizing by type,” Thomas says. Some people prefer grouping clothes according to color, function, work or occasion.

One More Thing

After a week or so of appreciating how much quicker and easier it is to live with a well-organized closet full of things you actually use, it’s time to deal with the sequestered bags from the Never Pile. But it’s important to remember this: Do. Not. Open. Not even a peek.

Can you remember what’s inside them? Snook Scott is betting the answer is no. “These items have served you well, but it’s time to move on,” she says. “Resist the urge to open the bags one last time.” Drop them off at a thrift store or recycling organization that is accepting donations now, or sell them online, and let them have a new life with people who will use them.

Then move on. “You’ll get the most mileage from your wardrobe when everything you own is visible and accessible,” Snook Scott says.” If you have to hunt for it or if you can’t reach it, you won’t wear it.”